(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Language Planning for a New Order     501
of such would not keep us within the 1,000 word limit We have
to look elsewhere for help, and here we can apply with profit, if we
apply it with temperance, the basic principle of Dalgarno's Art of
Symbols and Wilkins* Real Cliaracter. All European languages have
words which embrace the meaning of a group Thus the general term
clothes (with the bedfellows vesture, garment, apparel, dress) includes
two main classes* under clothes including vest, shirt, knickers, petticoat,
and outer clothes including frock, skirt, trousers, coat In the same way
building covers school, theatre, prison, villa, hospital, museum, and dnnk
or beverage includes non-alcohohc and alcoholic, to the latter of which
we assign wine, cider, beer, whisky, gin
A careful comparative investigation would probably reveal that
modern English is far better equipped with words of the food, dnnk,
container, instniment class than French or Spanish for instance It is
almost self-evident that classifying words of this sort must play an
important part in the build-up of an economical vocabulary, because
they enable us to refer to a maximum number of different things,
operations, and properties with a minimum of separate names In a
given context or situation dnnk will usually deputize well enough for
the more specific wine. It is also self-evident that there are limits to the
use of master-key words, if we aim at excluding vagueness and ambi-
guity It is not enough to have a general word animal distinguishable
as wild or domestic In real life we need words for cat, cow, dog, horse,
pig So one important problem which confronts us is this: which
animals, dnnks, garments, etc, have claim to a place on a list of essential
words ^ The answer is not quite simple. We would not hesitate to
provide a special niche for wine, cow, shoe, but can we ignore cider, bull,
or brassiere'* Let us see how we can extricate ourselves from the diffi-
culty of having no such words One way is to choose a more general
term and leave the rest to the situation Another is to extract a defini-
tion or use a substitution by juggling with material already to hand
Thus we can define cider as a dnnk made from apples, a bull as the male
of the cow, and a brassiere as support for the breasts
At bottom word economy depends on judicious selection of general
terms and descriptive penphrase for specific uses With reference to
what constitutes judicious selection we have to remember two things
Definition is often cumbersome, and the aptitude for picking out
features which make for identification in a given situation is the product
of training In short, the difficulty of fishing out an appropriate defini-
tion may be much greater than the effort of memorizing an extra word.